Tel Aviv Diary January 8, 2003 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

it's still the 7th but there are some days i can't wait until tomorrow - i make a new page and sit waiting for something better to say than yesterday's awful news. Sapi's face in the paper just won't leave my mind. The same face that looks over her shoulder at the cane she holds behind her back.

Now I've ruined the new page as well.

January 8 for real

All that's on the news this morning is concerned with the possibility of Sharon having done something criminal somewhere - all that's on CNN is the possible threat of North Korea - andall that's on the BBC is the story about the discovery of Ricin. No crossovers on the news today. We're getting isolated in our panic.

On the other hand, the sun is shining in Tel Aviv, it has warmed up, and there is no way to look out at the sea and not believe that there are ways of solving these problems.

And now Tennyson comes to mind. Could it be I haven't quoted this before? I don't know - i don't allow myself to look back

Oh Yet We Trust

Oh yet we trust that somehow good

Will be the final goal of ill,

To pangs of nature, sins of will,

Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet;

That not one life shall be destroyed,

Or cast as rubbish to the void,

When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;

That not a moth with vain desire

Is shrivelled in a fruitless fire,

Or but subserves another's gain.

Behold, we know not anything;

I can but trust that good shall fail

At last -- far off -- at last, to all,

And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?

An infant crying in the night:

An infant crying for the light:

And with no language but a cry.

January 9, 2003

And now there's talk of Bush postponing the war until the Fall. What am I going to do with all the junk food I've been stocking up, the balcony stacked with bottles of mineral water... Postpone a war once and nobody will ever take you seriously again. Next time they tell me to soup up my gas mask I'll have a tough time dragging myself down to the old tel aviv funeral parlor where they distribute them. i need my war now - preferably a fast and painless one for all concerned - but with one good night of anticipation and family unity.

In a sober moment i know that it would be far better now to give the time to the Arab leaders to convince Saddam to step down. But what will we do with all our adrenalin?

It may even happen that Likkud will lose the election now - and Labor and Meretz will make a coalition, maybe even with shinui, and we'll do something about separating the terrorists from the good jews and arabs of this area. Who knows - all we need is a little faith, right?

After all, now that Bishara and Tibi are back in the elections, the Arabs will vote and we'll all have a more democratic society.

An interesting situation was presented to me today - a very nice lady emailed me from a British television company about a film she was doing on insomnia - my poem on scriberazone concerning insomnia made her think that perhaps i might be willing to talk that evening on tv about it. she assumed of course that since scriberazone was a british mag, i lived in london and could just pop over. It got me thinking about the particularly Israeli quality of my insomnia. How one night in 1973 on Yom Kippur I woke to feel the bed shaking - tanks were heading toward the northern border a few blocks from me. That night was the first of years of sleepless nights. My husband was called up for almost six months - i had no telephone - my child had pneumonia over and over that winter - and i spent my nights on the rocking chair by her bed, not only to watch over her breathing, but to comfort myself with her presence.

After that I was always alert. When I moved in with Ezi I woke one night to find a burglar in the house - I'd heard him stepping over the loose stone square in the hall and was wide awake by the time he entered the room. The Gulf War finished off the idea of uninterrupted sleep forever. I wake easily and am always ready for action - ready to run for shelter - after 2 months of training i know where my shoes are and don't wear diaphanous nightclothes. i could make it out of the flat and down to the shelter within 2 minutes, no - 180 seconds - from my deepest sleep.

So there IS a difference between british insomnia and israeli insomnia.

And, if you're suffering from insomnia, here's something to help - the labor party statement: חכים/מפלגה וקשרי חוץ/51457

Labor Position Paper



The state of Israel is at a crossroads. The results of the forthcoming elections on January 28th will determine whether Israel’s citizens will continue to live in a state of constant warfare and in an ever-deepening social and economic crisis, or whether they will have a new Government capable of presenting alternative policies.


Led by Amram Mitzna, the Labour Party believes that it can foster a wide national consensus around policies which will bring the State of Israel back to itself.  For two years Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s policies have been based on the premise that there will be no negotiations as long as violence continues. This policy has brought about a dangerous political stalemate and enabled a coalition of extremist terrorist organizations to dictate the agenda for Israelis and Palestinians alike.


The Labour Party led by Amram Mitzna, a retired General with a military experience spanning over 30 years, will conduct negotiations with the Palestinians as if there is no terrorism and will continue to fight forcefully against terrorism as if no negotiations were conducted.


The leadership of the Labour Party considers separation from the Palestinians a priority to be achieved at the earliest possible time, preferably through negotiations and a political agreement; if that proves impossible it will consider unilateral separation by completing a security fence, which will prevent the infiltration of terrorists into the heartland of Israel. Such separation will no doubt necessitate the evacuation of a few remote settlements, which require today the deployment of 80% of the IDF for their protection. Since such a fence separating Israel from the Gaza strip already exists and has prevented such infiltrations, a Government led by Labour will evacuate the small number of settlers living today in Gaza in the midst of a densly populated Palestinian area.


The social and economic policies of the Labour Party will change national priorities, investing more money in education, so as to close the economic gap, and in the infrastructure so as to generate jobs.  Since 1967 all Israeli Governments have invested heavily in the territories, and this at the expense of the underpriviledged.  Israel, which in 1973 had one of the most egalitarian societies in the world, competes today with the U.S. for first place in the extent of its social gap.  We firmly believe that this is where the main existential threat lies. Creative solutions to close the social gap, to care for the elderly and the retired, and to divide more evenly the social and military burdens must and can be found.  A Government led by Labour will set these goals as a first priority.

nothing surprising, nothing daring - but who knows. the other night i told someone i was still wavering between meretz and mitzna - because i don't like most of the other guys in Labor. i like Peres and Pines and Mitzna and that's about it right now. and the meretz people are a bunch of good guys except for one or two who are blind. but i really want mitzna in there.

January 10, 2003

Ignore for the moment all those incriminations against Sharon. As a British friend said today, if Churchill had been scrutinized like Sharon is being scrutinized he would have been knocked out of office.

The Palestinian authority said today that its people should try to refrain from terrorist attacks from now on -- because it causes damage to the image of the Palestinians. not because it's wrong to come into tel aviv and blow up 22 innocent people. but because it damages their image. to the israeli left as well, they said. the ramifications of this remark are incredible.

i was thinking about postcolonialism and our belief that 'all' civilizations are equal (except of course our own, which is terribly flawed). the other days i was looking up my friends on the internet - poets who are native american, palestinian american, black american, chicano ...they are all in the groups of the downtrodden. jewish american doesn't work however - the jewish writers who admit to being jewish write apparently only for jews about jewishness. the majority of jewish writers who don't make a fuss about their being jewish blend into the american culture and aren't thought of as jewish. so the jewish writers who write about being jewish are considered like parochial, provincial - but my Creek friend who writes about being Native American is like universal...

something is wrong with this picture.

January 11, 2003

I have become obsessed with Kurt Gerron. I was always obsessed by his portrait, but now I'm obsessed by his life.

"How convenient of you to have someone to concentrate on who died so long ago," says my friend Kobi. "It keeps you from thinking about those you lost last week, last month."

This too is paradigmatic, I say, transforming myself from an individual neutoric into a sociologist with another almost magic escapist contortion. The immediate losses are too great. "On what levels are your loss," he asks, as an Israeli citizen knowing the answer I'm sure. It's not just the personal grieving. It's the total loss of freedom - the sense of physical confinement, of being in a constant state of real fear, of having to concentrate on survival alternatives, possible scenarios of being attacks -- instead of poetry, instead of philosophy, instead of research. And I can bear the great financial burdens we've acquired in the past few years, the need for twice as much work to earn half as much money, but I can't bear the thought that my children will not have the safe and secure future I had worked for all my adult life. And the country I invested myself in totally. I'm not making sense I'll bet.

want to contribute to mitzna - send a check to the lebor party, pob 3443. tel aviv 61034

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